Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pacifica dog park expects to open end of March, 2012

Coast Views Magazine, edition 2/12.  Jo-Anne Daniels, "Opening of Pacifica's Dog Park".

"This spring, Pacifica is scheduled to officially open its first dog park, located at the Sanchez Art Center at 1220 Linda Mar Boulevard in Pacifica. Construction began Dec. 8 when city officials and members of the Pacifica Organization of Canine Helpers — also known as POOCH — broke ground at the site of the new park. As dog owner JoAnn Alanzo says, “Both two-legged and four-legged friends will benefit from its presence.”

The dog park will provide an enclosed space — approximately half an acre — for dogs to run off-leash and socialize with other dogs in a safe environment. The park will be secured by a four-foot-high, green, vinyl-coated chain-link fence. Dog fountains will be located inside the park and there are plans to create segregated areas for small and large dogs. The park will be free, and will be open between 7 a.m. and sunset.

The City of Pacifica will provide a dispenser for doggie waste bags. POOCH, in partnership with the city, will provide free waste bags and a garbage receptacle. During the first months the park is open, POOCH volunteers will be on hand to educate dog owners about using the dog waste bags and garbage receptacle and to encourage park users to keep the park clean for everyone. Read more.

Reference - Pacifica POOCH, Why a Dog Park?

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Cats removed from island off California without killing them

Officials from the Navy and environmental groups have completed a three-year program to relocate feral cats off San Nicolas Island.
3 year program to relocate feral cats
Los Angeles Times/Steve Chawkins, 2/26/12. "Comples effort to rid San Nicholas Island of cats declared a success"."The six-agency project cost more than $3 million and entailed 18 months of trapping on the Navy-owned island off Southern California. The cats killed cormorants, gulls and a threatened lizard."

"Reporting from San Nicolas Island, Calif.— The problem was daunting: Round up every last one of the who-knows-how-many cats living in the wild on wind-blasted San Nicolas Island, a 33-square-mile chunk of chaparral and jagged canyons off the Southern California coast. And don't get in the way of the missiles that are launched from, and sometimes aimed at, the arid, Navy-owned island. And don't hurt the cats, the seabirds they feast on, the threatened island foxes, the native deer mice or, for that matter, anything else.
An island you probably didn't know existed.

This cat, trapped on San Nicolas in 2009, now lives in Ramona, Calif.
What else you've got for me?
The solution was something a little more complicated than "Here, kitty kitty."  The effort involved six agencies, cost more than $3 million and entailed 18 months of trapping, though planning for it took much longer. Biologists brought in dogs, but soon shipped them out: Fido couldn't find Fluffy because he was too distracted by the island's hundreds of foxes. And the cats weren't falling for the scientists' "felid-attracting phonics" — digitally recorded meows that didn't work as well as they might in cartoons.

Ultimately, the job required the skills of a retired bobcat hunter as well as some 250 custom-built traps that flashed computer alerts to researchers miles away. Much of the funding came from the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program, a group formed in 2001 to aid the recovery of coastal areas hurt by decades of DDT dumping.   Earlier this month, biologists and Navy personnel gathered on the rain-swept island to celebrate their success. There wasn't a cat in sight."

  ...The scientists and the Navy personnel stopped short of references to St. Patrick and the snakes of Ireland but proudly noted that San Nicolas is the largest island anywhere to remove feral cats without using poison.  The bird colonies appear to be bouncing back. There's talk of eventually getting the island night lizard off the endangered list. Hanson is preparing to deal with rats on Wake Island. McHugh, who retired Friday, offered a wry wish to the crowd: "Hopefully," he said," if there's a cat left on San Nicolas, there's only one."   Read more, including  photo gallery.

Posted by Kathy Meeh

No Planning Commission meeting, March 5, 2012

Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art since Pollock (Bollingen)

Planning Commission notification. 

"Notice is hereby given that the regularly scheduled meeting of the Planning Commission of March 5, 2012 has been cancelled."

Nothing to build, regulate or reject in Pacifica this week. 

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Is today your rare leap year birthday?

Infoplease/Ann Marie Imbornoni and Mark Hughes, "Leap year explained - Leap years synchronize the calendar year with the solar year." 
Leap Year
Rare coastal frog

"Why do we need leap year?  The Gregorian calendar, which now serves as the standard calendar for civil use throughout the world, has both common years and leap years. A common year has 365 days and a leap year 366 days, with the extra, or intercalary, day designated as February 29. A leap year occurs every four years to help synchronize the calendar year with the solar year, or the length of time it takes the earth to complete its orbit about the sun, which is about 365¼ days.

The length of the solar year, however, is slightly less than 365¼ days—by about 11 minutes. To compensate for this discrepancy, the leap year is omitted three times every four hundred years.
In other words, a century year cannot be a leap year unless it is divisible by 400. Thus 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years, but 1600, 2000, and 2400 are leap years.

What are your chances of being born on leap day? About 1 in 1,500."  Read more. 


Posted by Kathy Meeh

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pete DeJarnatt will not run for re-election

Now its time for councilmember Sue Digre to step-down. 
2 down, 1 to go.

At last night's city council meeting, Mayor Pete DeJarnatt said this will be his last term, his last year on city council. He will not run for re-election, Fall, 2012.

Same meeting, city councilmember Sue Digre made some "not our fault" excuses for the "no growth" economic disaster this city is facing. Her comments were out-of-touch with the 10 year reality of her city council tenure. Guess she forgot significant city economic solutions were not supported or championed by her, or then city council majority. The result, this city may fail.  

Along with the others, its time for councilmember "our environment is our economy" Sue Digre to step-down. Councilmember Vreeland is gone, Mayor DeJarnatt is going. Does Council member Sue Digre really want to be the only 10 year councilmember left to be recalled in a very messy campaign? 

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Sharp Park 80th Anniversary Celebration!


Don't Miss This One!

Sharp Park 80th Anniversary Tournament and Celebration
Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sharp Park Golf Course opened in Spring, 1932. 80 years ago!

Join the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, Pacifica Chamber of Commerce, and Sharp Park Golf Club and Business Women's Golf Club, for a day of celebration Saturday, May 19, starting with a golf tournament, followed by a reception and festivities in the Clubhouse at 5:30 p.m.

2-best-balls per foursome, full handicap. 
11:30am
Shotgun start, 12:30pm 
Prizes, surprise guests and more!

80th Anniversary Festivities: 
Start at 5:30 p.m. 
Join us for hors d'oeuvres, a no-host bar, a raffle for golf merchandise, a silent auction for great prizes (golf trips, vacation weekends, golf lessons and equipment, golf art by famous golf artists, and much more)!

Proceeds to support the Public Golf Alliance's ongoing legal fight to Save Sharp Park Golf Course.

Donation for golf (including cart) and festivities: $150.00 per player
Donation for festivities only: $50 per person.

This event will fill-up fast, so get up-to-date information and 

If you cannot attend, please take this opportunity to make a tax-deductible donation to San Francisco Public Golf Alliance. Click here.

Donations are greatly appreciated. To donate, please visit our website: Donations Page

 We are on Twitter (@SFPublicGolf), Facebook and our website
Contact us at

Submitted by Richard Harris

City councilman Vreeland resigns - health reason undisclosed

San Mateo Times/Joshua Melvin, 2/27/12.  "Health problems force resignation of longtime Pacifica Councilman Jim Vreeland."

"Longtime Pacifica City Councilman Jim Vreeland resigned Monday, citing unspecified health problems that have left him unable to carry out his official duties.  In his one-paragraph letter, Vreeland, a councilman since 1998, said his departure is effective immediately. His term runs through 2014.

Jim Vreeland
"Serving the people of the city of Pacifica for the past 15 years has been the greatest honor of my life," Vreeland, 49, wrote. "My family and I appreciate your understanding during this difficult time."
Vreeland didn't respond to messages seeking comment. City Manager Steve Rhodes and Mayor Pete DeJarnatt said they did not know anything about the three-time former mayor's illness.

"I only wish I were able to continue (serving) at the high level I expect from myself, and that the city deserves," Vreeland wrote.

Questions have swirled for months about Vreeland's health and political future as he accumulated both excused and unexcused absences from council meetings. The most recent was Feb. 14 and led to a hearing being delayed on the appeal of a 96-unit assisted care facility.

"I'm saddened by it. He's been a friend," DeJarnatt said. "I wish it weren't happening." The council must now decide whether to appoint someone to finish Vreeland's term or to hold an election in November when two other board members are up for new terms."

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Monday, February 27, 2012

City councilman Jim Vreeland Resigns

From Pacifica Patch, 2/27/12, 12:42 pm. "Councilman Jim Vreeland Resigns over health issues."

"Councilman Jim Vreeland officially tendered his resignation late this morning. He had told the Pacifica Tribune earlier this month that we was planning on resigning, although no details emerged until today. "I regret to inform you that I am facing health issues that leave me unable to fulfill my duties as a member of the City Council,” he wrote. “I therefore respectfully offer my resignation from the City Council, effective 12p.m. Feb. 27, 2012.” Vreeland said he's proud of all the council has done during his time on it, and wishes he could continue to serve.  Read more

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Reminder - city council meeting tonight, Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscar Statuette
5 city council members - any awards?
City Council Meeting, 2/27/12

Hot consideration items
City sales tax (items 6, 7, 8)
Union contracts (items 10, 11)
City council member attendance requirements (item 12).

Related Articles
Pacifica is the 6th or 7th largest city in San Mateo County.
Pacifica has the lowest per capita revenue of San Mateo County cities.
Posted by Kathy Meeh

Sunday, February 26, 2012

All About Financing City Services Task Force - History, Current Recommendations and Future Plans

On February 18th, Pacifica residents of all political stripes and affiliations walked through the doors of the Sharp Park Golf Course Restaurant's Banquet Room to hear the City of Pacifica's Financing City Services Task Force Chair, Bruce Banco, present to the Pacifica Democrats club the history, goals, and  objectives of the Task Force, as well as its recently developed recommendations for the potential options to be taken by the City Council this year.

City and County Median Income Statistics:

"Pacifica is the 6th largest city in San Mateo County. San Mateo County has a median household income of $95,300. Pacifica has a median household income of $91,134, yet has the lowest per capita revenue ($600) in the entire county" said Banco in his introductory remarks to the assembled morning diners. "As you look across the county, we are not anywhere near the top level of pay given to our city employees. In fact, wages paid to our city employees are in the bottom quartile in the state."

Declining Reserves:

Banco went on to explain that the city has approximately 15 funds, with the General Fund being the biggest at $27 million. He also revealed that a city's reserve requirements should be generally at 10% to 20%, but, regrettably, this is the not the case in Pacifica. He enumerated the quickly declining reserves from that of $6,609,009 in FY 09/10 to $4,592,054 in FY 10/11, $1,523,910 in  FY 11/12, to a predicted $503,496 in FY 12/13, $139,810 in FY 13/14, $130,062 in FY 14/15, and $66,946 in FY 15/16, with a"bottoming out" of $0 in reserves in FY 16/17.

Potential Remedies:

And, because of this, the current Financing City Services Task Force has been charged with developing a new 5 year Financial Plan, discussing a reserve policy and/or setting a reserve amount based on a percentage of total expenditures, in addition to prioritizing options for presentation to the City Council for action to be taken.

"The Task Force is presently looking at cuts, concessions and revenue measures, which entail looking at outsourcing, discussing public input developed from public forums and overall generally being more fiscally conservative," Banco explained. "Their job is to examine choices, risks and trade-offs. In order to help with their objectives, they need to look at long term revenues and economic development, in addition to planning for the passage or failure of planned tax measures."

City's Shrinking Work Force:
"Our work force has gone from 230 funded positions in FY 02/03 to now approximately 158 full time employees (176 with part time equivalents), said Banco."We have nine labor unions, and all but two of our employees (Steve Rhodes and Ann Ritzma) are in a labor union. Our total compensation has been down 4.4% between 2010 and 2011. Our total compensation (top step) is below county averages in six of seven categories and our police contracts are soon to be re-opened for negotiations. With nine unions, the negotiation processes are always on-going."

After having given this basic information to the audience, Banco then took a little time in explaining to the group what the Task Force has done between 2008 and the present because, according to Banco, it helps frame what they are doing currently.

Task Force History, Goals and Objectives:

"We have been around for four years. The initial Task Force was formed in July of 2008 for the purpose of identifying funding to replace the fire assessment, which was due to expire in 2009. In January of 2009, we recommended a one cent per dollar sales tax to be voted on by the voters. That particular measure was defeated by 61.68% of the voters.  We went then back to the "drawing board". In July of 2009, the city directed the Financing City Services Task Force to develop a 5-year Financial Plan that would bring financial stability to the city.

"In 2009, we were re-chartered, not to just look at something that was already going away, but to really look at the financial structural liability of the City of Pacifica," Banco reported.

Banco further noted that the Task Force in 2010 recommended a Five Year Plan that included new revenues that would require both voter approval and union negotiations concerning reductions in employee costs. In March of 2010, they issued a report that outlined cuts that included reviewing the city's budget and discussing the sources of revenues, and in some cases, restrictions on expenditures. The Task Force reviewed each departmental budget. The report identified the Task Force's top priorities: maintaining city services and minimizing lay-offs... as much as possible. The report recommended that all segments of the community should come together to share the solutions. The plan recommended $8.5 million in savings by lowering employee costs through negotiated adjustments to salaries, benefits, pension expenses and other associated employee costs.

Coupled with the $8.5 million that was to come from these sources, the Task Force recommended three different tax measures, or, at least, were thinking of three different tax measures to go along with was the increase in Hotel Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) to go from 10 to 12%, the second was a Public Safety Assessment... later changed to Fire Suppression Assessment and the third was a revised Utility Users Tax. Those were supposed to bring in approximately $6 million. The TOT tax passed. That was $160,000.
"Back to the drawing board":
However, in April of 2011 the Fire Suppression Assessment was abandoned... after responses received by the city were sufficient to defeat it. This forced the Task Force to once again go back to the "drawing board", because the Fire Suppression Assessment was a large component of what they needed...Thus, in June of 2011 the City Council adopted a budget with new cuts of approximately $1.5 million, which included the City Attorney, a police captain, police dispatchers and several other positions that added up to 19.7 equivalent positions that were identified as no longer part of the budget. However, that ended up as not being enough and the Task Force was charged one more time in 2011 to go through and take a thorough look at the whole process again.
"Our goal continues to be developing a Five Year Financial Plan, and now, to really start discussing a reserve policy, or setting a reserve amount to address this," Banco said.
Banco revealed that this will take some time, since they are already experiencing trouble in even balancing the current budget, let alone in setting reserve policies for the future, but they have been kicking around the 10-20 % figure in their preliminary discussions of same.
"Our goal is about $700,000/yr in either revenue increases or expenditure reductions. We've had 14 meetings since last August. We did a lot of things. We talked about every city departmemt. We talked about every revenue source. And, we received a lot of input from people that eventually were put into what we call Options A, B and C," Banco informed. "These options will be the recommendations that we make to City Council about how to address this problem."
Banco then pointed out that all along the way the Task Force has been making recommendations for consideration to the City Council, as well as to staff, about such items as compensation levels in the city, not only salaries, but other items that ought to be considered, when the city does labor negotiations, such as "cafeteria cash", a topic about which Banco indicated to the audience that he had a definite strong addition to a whole "laundry list" of other items for them to consider, in order to help them reach the goals that they have for expense reductions.
"Our current goal is $3.7 million over the next five years that we're trying to identify, in order to get our reserves back up to between four and five million dollars, where they should be... while still balancing the current budget," Banco revealed.
Task Force Public Forums:
"In January of this year, we deliberately structured our Public Forum the way we did because in the traditional Task Force meetings, people can speak, but are constrained by the Brown Act from interacting with the Task Force members. We wanted to produce a forum in which people were free to talk at length about their opinions on everything going on concerning the city's budget and have a dialogue back and forth with the Task Force members. There were several lively discussions at the various tables throughout the room, especially about outsourcing the police department, PB and R cuts, revenues, utility user taxes, parcel taxes and other issues," Banco said.
Public Surveys:
In addition to the Public Forum, they devised a survey that could be filled out at the forum, or on-line or at home and later mailed in to them. The Task Force members wanted feedback. They fully recognized that it was not a scientific sample. However, it gave them a sense of what's going on when they received 60-70% opposed or in support of a particular issue. They took the survey results and crafted their A, B and C Options for the Council's consideration as follows: (All of these options take into consideration the fact that they have already identified $3.7 million in salary freezes and employee compensation changes etc. over the next five years, but there still has to be more negotiations to achieve that number...and the city plans to go back again to the unions to re-negotiate in order to accomplish same.)
Task Force Recommendations:
Option A:
This is the item that was most favorably looked at by the people and with the broadest support...roughly 60% were either strongly in favor or somewhat in favor of this option. This is the option that is the Task Force's preference in order of recommendation. The option is to put a 1/2 cent transaction sales tax on the ballot. It did not indicate what month. It just said a 1/2 cent transaction sales tax.(Although the Task Force would have preferred it sooner rather than later, in other words, the June ballot, as it may or may not be considered for the November ballot, but that would have to be decided later.)
In addition to that, they also have included in Option A an increase in Revenues by: Business License increases, establishing TOT for Vacation Rentals, increasing the Fireworks tax, updating Building Permit Fees, assessing Winterization Inspection fees, and increasing towing fees.
This would be combined with a reduction in Expenditures by: the implementation of a salary freeze and other employee compensation changes and  the elimination of two supervisory positions from the Public Works Dept,(which two positions have already been accomplished by attrition from two retirements) which brings the total to approximately $1.3 million dollars in expense reductions and revenue increases...
Over 5 years this would get the city's reserve percentage up to over 23%, as well as meeting the city's obligations on a yearly basis. It grows the reserve to $6.4 million in five years, which would give the city a measure of security for city government to meet an emergency.
Option B:
To add an additional reduction in city expenditures by exploring the potential of contracting out Police Dept. services to the San Mateo County Sheriff. They estimated that it would save $1.5 million to do so. Coupled with the other items already mentioned as revenue sources, Option B would bring the total to approximately $1.8 million dollars in expense reductions and revenue increases.
If this option happens, over the cost of 5 years it will grow the reserves up to $8.7 million, which is a 30% reserve, which would allow the city to be able to do things again, according to Banco. Right now Pacifica is in a "maintenance mode"...just being able to pay the bills being its number one priority...
Option C:
The same salary freeze and other employee compensation changes as in the first two Options and the same elimination of the two Supervisory positions in the Public Works Dept, but this Option would now include: Eliminating funding for the Resource Center, the Visitor's Center, and Pacifica Community TV. It would reduce staff for the swim team, reduce funding for library hours and reduce staffing in Police Department by eliminating 1 Sargent and 1 Patrolman.
In addition to the aforementioned revenue generation increase in fees in the first two Options, this Option would also call for an increase in teen program fees, recreational swim fees and swim team fees.
This would only total approximately $788,018 in expense reductions and revenue increases. Over the cost of 5 years, the reserve would only be at $3.8 million...the smallest of all the options.
Future Public Forums:
After it presents these options to the City Council, the Task Force has plans to put on more public forums, except the future public forums will be more in the traditional sense of public forums, with the dais and the speakers time being limited to three minutes at the microphones, with quite a bit less interaction than the January Public Forum afforded the public.
How to Implement a 1/2 cent sales tax:
At the end of Banco's presentation, there was a brief Q and A period in which the first question asked was about the process needed for the Council to get a 1/2 cent sales tax measure on the ballot. Banco responded that the City Council needs to declare a fiscal emergency, call for the measure to be placed on the ballot, and adopt an implementing Ordinance. Declaration of the Fiscal Emergency requires a unanimous vote of the governing body, adoption of the Resolution calling the election will require a majority vote, and adopting the Ordinance will require a 2/3 vote of the governing body and majority approval by the voters at an election.
Survey Results:
To the questions about what the survey results indicated by way of the options offered to them, Banco replied that when it came to outsourcing police, 57.4% opposed or somewhat opposed; 38.3% supported or somewhat supported the idea. When it came to the 1/2 cent sales tax, Banco reported that 60.1% supported or somewhat supported the option and 35% were opposed.
However, Banco was quick to  remind the audience that it is one thing to get a survey result and another thing to get an election vote. He referred to the positive results that they had received concerning the previous 1% sales tax measure that they had put on the ballot... only to be defeated by a 60.68% opposition vote at the polls.
"Something has to happen. It might not be pleasurable. If it's not a revenue increase, it could be tax increases or further salary reductions or whatever it eventually winds up to be, we are just going to have to do it!," said Banco in his concluding remarks to the Pacifica Democrats.
Submitted by Barbara Arietta

Stockton, CA - large city considering bankruptcy

Bloomberg Businessweek/Alison Vekshin and Michael B. Morois, 2/26/12.  "Stockton to take steps toward bankruptcy, city manager says."

Stockton national high crime city even with advantages.
"Stockton, California, may take the first steps toward becoming the most populous U.S. city to file for bankruptcy next week because of burdensome employee costs, excessive debt and bookkeeping errors that misrepresented accounts, city officials said today. 

The Stockton City Council will meet Feb. 28 to consider a type of mediation that allows creditors to participate, the first move toward a Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing under a new state law. The council will also weigh suspending some payments on long-term debt of about $702 million, according to a 2010 financial statement. 

“Somebody has to suffer and in this case the city manager has decided it should be the bondholders who suffer,” Marc Levinson of the Sacramento-based law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, which represents the city, said at a news briefing at Stockton’s City Hall today. Stockton, a farming center about 80 miles (130 kilometers) east of San Francisco, has fought to avert bankruptcy by shrinking its payroll, including a quarter of the roughly 425- member police force. At 292,000, the city has more than twice as many residents as Vallejo, California, which became a national symbol for distressed municipal finance in 2008 when it sought protection from creditors. Read more.

ReferencesCity of Stockton website.  Forbes list, ranked #2, Worst places to live, 4:52 minute video, 3/24/10., Jon Stossel and Bill O'Reilly discussion.

Submitted by Jim Alex

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Financing City Services background prior to Council Meeting, 2/27/12

Introductory background notes from Financing City Services, Chairman Bruce Banco in his presentation to the public invited Pacifica Democrats meeting, 2/18/12. These notes relate to City Council Meeting, 2/27/12, consideration items 6, 7, 8. 
City economy needs more than frogs to survive!

1.  Pacifica is the 6th or 7th largest city in San Mateo County.
2.  Pacifica has the lowest per capita revenue of San Mateo County cities.
3.  The City General Fund pays ordinary city bills, the revenue requirement to support is currently about $27 million.
4.  The City General Fund is the fund Pacifica Financial Services Task Force is concerned with.
5.  There are other city specific funds, 15 total.
6.  The City General Fund and Budget Reserve fund cannot deteriorate to $0, the money has to come from somewhere. 
7    Making-up the General Fund short-fall has been supported from the Budget Reserves Fund, but the cushion is almost exhausted.
8.   Declining General Fund revenue and Budget Reserves time-line: Fiscal years June, 2008, 2009, 2010 "free fall drop"; 2011, 2012  "gradual drop";  2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 near "$0" or "$0". Budget reserve chart.

The city has a permanent, long-term deteriorating structural financial deficit. The Financing City Services Task Force was established 7/08, 4 years ago, to assist in 5 year revenue planning. And ultimately find a way to replace the prior Fire Assessment.

Although not discussed at the meeting, what exists as a Budget Reserve is likely monies returned from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) in defense of the North Pacifica LLC lawsuit.  About $5.5 million was returned to the city, which probably occurred in 2010 changing budget cash reserves to a gradual decline for 2 years (2011 and 2012).  Thus, the city only lost about $1.5 million fighting the North Pacifica LLC residential development, a conflict the city caused and aggravated.  The lawsuit continued over a 7 year period. City losses include the approximated $1.5 million lawsuit short-fall, plus ongoing residential and community business sales taxes losses (the result of no development).

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Saturday, February 25, 2012

High School board votes 3/6/12 to place parcel tax on the ballot

Pacifica Tribune/Jane Northrop, 2/14/12. "The trustees of the Jefferson Union High School District hired a polling research firm and a political consultant to determine if voters would be likely to support a parcel tax. The results of that poll are in, with more than 65 percent showing support for a $48/year parcel tax with a duration of four years. The school board will vote on March 6 to decide whether or not to put it on the June ballot.

"If we go, we'll go in June," said JUHSD Superintendent Tom Minshew. "It's needed. We had a lot of cuts from the state and, since 2008, we have cut $3.4 million. We need it to continue to offer quality education to our students. Given the uncertainties of state funding for our schools, we have to ask the community to support this."

The $48 tax for a duration of four years was the lowest of several options potential voters were asked to consider. The highest parcel tax amount was $100 and the longest duration was 8 years.
Godbe Research and TBWB Strategies presented the results of a voter opinion survey to the board of trustees last week. "We see strong voter support for this measure, which would provide stable, local revenue for local high schools that could not be taken away by the state," said Sarah Stern of TBWB Strategies.

Voter support for a potential educational parcel tax to enhance math, science, reading and writing skills, to provide career training and college preparation, to provide computer instruction and attract Voters also agreed that fiscal accountability provisions, including an independent citizens' oversight committee and a prohibition against using any funds for administrators would be essential components of the potential measure. A senior exemption was an important piece to those who responded to the survey, as well.and retain qualified teachers reached the 67 percent level of support in the voter survey, which would be required for the measure to be successful in an election."

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Post offices are downsizing by selling properties

Burlingame is proactive in planning use of that property for the benefit of their city. 

San Mateo Daily Journal/Heather Murtagh, 2/22/12. "Burlingame post office will be sold." "Burlingame’s downtown will soon have a key piece of property on the market, the main post office. Earlier this month, the sale of the Burlingame Main Post Office, 341 Lorton Ave., was approved by postal officials, said U.S. Postal Service spokesman James Wigdel. A timeline for selling the property as well as the relocation process, which requires a public meeting, has yet to be set. But the announcement could be good news for Burlingame officials who have long eyed the central downtown property. The Burlingame Post Office is about 13,400 square feet but only 4,100 square feet is needed, said Wigdel. “The plan is to relocate all retail and P.O. Box operations currently housed in the Burlingame Main Post Office to a yet-to-be-determined new location in the same vicinity as the current post office that is appropriately sized for our current needs,” he said.

Burlingame Post Office,  entrance Lorton Avenue
City officials will be meeting with post office officials to discuss the relocation, said City Manager Jim Nantell. “We are hopeful that we could work with whoever purchases the property to develop the site, possibly in combination with our public parking next door, in a way that will allow for a significant public plaza/space in the middle of our downtown,” he said.Mayor Jerry Deal was happy to hear the news. He agreed with Nantell, a signature outdoor space is missing downtown. Deal was also hopeful a development would include retail, condos and increased parking options.
An idea for such a development is under way. Last year, Burlingame requested ideas for developing the 20 city-owned downtown parking lots. Among the top two ideas, on which the city just started negotiations, one required use of the post office.

Grosvenor, an international property development, investment and fund management group, put forward a mixed-use project using lot E — located between Lorton Avenue, Park Road, Burlingame Avenue and Howard Avenue — and the adjacent post office. The concept encompasses both properties and was created in partnership with San Francisco-based BAR Architects. It includes an “urban village” with 100 residential units, 35,000 square feet of retail and/or restaurant space and 125 residential parking spaces, according to a staff report written by Community Development Director Bill Meeker.

Some guidance for possible uses for the site can be found in the city’s Downtown Specific Plan. A creek runs under a portion of the property, which, under the plan, could one day be uncovered to create a unique town square-like space. If the lot including the building were to be put up for sale, the building could be used for civic purposes. The plan also outlines possible uses for the area including retail, personal services, business, offices and upstairs residential units.

Burlingame’s post office isn’t the only one that could be sold. The U.S. Postal Service faces a $9 billion deficit. As a result, last year the independent government agency announced plans to close up to 3,700 post offices and 250 mail processing centers across the country. The Postal Service had planned to shutter those facilities in December but has since pushed that decision back to May. Post office representative previously said post offices in Half Moon Bay, Menlo Park and Palo Alto were slated to be sold in 2012. Closing the processing center in Burlingame has also previously been discussed."

Current related articles:  "Palo Altointerested in post office site" (in expensive downtown Palo Alto),

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Friday, February 24, 2012

Computer interactive mentoring proves kids can learn (no surprise)

From Pacifica Tribune/Jane Northrop, 2/22/12. "We Teach Science shows test score gain in math for Pacifica students."

"Interactive computer math is cool!"
"Test scores show the unique teaching method of We Teach Science is effectively improving math scores in Pacifica. We Teach Science matches STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) mentors one-on-one with eighth grade students for weekly remote tutoring sessions conducted through an interactive computer. 

There have been some changes since Aragon Burlingham first brought the program he developed to the Pacifica School District through the portal of Cabrillo School's eighth graders and their math teacher, Don Potter, three years ago. That first year, only about a dozen students at Cabrillo connected with STEM professionals for one-on-one mentoring through a web-based interactive whiteboard and audio connection.  

Now in its third year, the Remote Tutoring and Mentoring (RTM) has expanded to include 50 students at three of the four schools with eighth graders in the PSD (Ingrid B. Lacy Middle School is not included due to a scheduling conflict) and another 50 students in the Berryessa School District in San Jose. The sessions last one hour and have become part of the school day instead of an after school program. Sessions run the whole school year. "We have doubled the program without losing the strength of it," Burlingham said. Test scores revealed the students who had mentors scored 22 percent higher between seventh and eighth grade. Growth was calculated by subtracting the seventh grade score from the eighth grade algebra score. RTM students' growth in math scores were also compared to those of non-participants. Pacifica students with mentors showed an 11 point growth over their peers. Their test scores rose 1.6 points per hour of mentoring in the eighth grade"   Read more. 

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Boosting our San Mateo County economy in Burlingame

The California Republican Party Spring 2012 convention is being held today and this weekend.   May Republicans spend a whole lot of money in Burlingame, and visit Pacifica as well. 

Silicon Valley Mercury News/Steven Harmon, 2/24/12.  "California Republicans meet in Burlingame to ponder their relevance."
Welcome to Burlingame, visit Pacifica!

"SACRAMENTO-- Less than two months into the new year, California Republicans are already reeling from a series of setbacks that reflects their sagging prospects. As activists descend on the Bay Area this weekend for the state GOP's spring convention, the California Republican Party has been struck with a few hard realities: The Republicans' registration numbers are down to an all-time low: 30.4 percent. They're almost broke. And Gov. Jerry Brown began the year announcing he would pursue a tax-hike initiative and dismissed Republicans as politically irrelevant, after pursuing them like a desperate suitor in 2010.

"Since they're out of power, the sole purpose of the Republican Party is to fight power," said Bill Whalen, a fellow at Stanford University's conservative Hoover Institution. "Their only rally cry has been to fight tax increases. But they can't just be the party that exists merely to fight the other side."  Whalen and other political analysts say that the state's GOP activists who will gather at a Burlingame hotel face hard choices, most of which revolve around one question: Should Republicans in an overwhelmingly blue state stick to their rigid principles or seek compromises with Democrats to make themselves relevant?" Read more.

CA Republican Party,  information.

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Dogs - leash up.

 Pacifica Tribune, 2/21/12, Letter-to the-editor,  "Leash your dog" by Kay Lindquist, Moss Beach. 
"For you, but I'd rather not."

"Editor: Perhaps the recent dog-walker incident on Montara Mountain could serve to settle this festering issue good. I am appalled at the instantaneous thrust of the "off-leashers" to grab this issue as their own. San Mateo County's law says "all dogs are to be on leash and under control whenever they are off the owners' property. The leash must be no more than 6 feet in length. The city of Pacifica also has a municipal law regarding the need to have dogs on-leash on public property.

I love dogs. It is the haughty, above-the-law walkers who have virtually closed the mountain to me. Over the years "dogs must be on leash" signs have been defaced and removed by walkers. There are off-leash parks. Dogs deserve them. Use them. Leash-up when on Montara Mountain and when walking them in Pacifica."

Posted by Kathy Meeh

We abide by the leash law

Leash law for farm animals? Guess not.  Dogs only.

On leash walk with Abrey and Lincoln

Half Moon Bay Review/photo galleries, 2/20/12  by Stacy Trevenon "No problem with the leash law".

"El Granada residents Jenna Baxter, center, and Ashley Utz take a stroll through the neighborhood with their three-month-old Hampshire cross sheep, Aubrey the ewe and Lincoln the wether.

The girls, both freshmen at Half Moon Bay High School, are raising sheep for the San Mateo County Fair. The spectacle of the two young women walking the docile sheep turned heads from passersby like Amber Williams of El Granada, who stopped her car and jumped out to pet the sheep while her border collie enviously looked on from the front seat."

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Thursday, February 23, 2012

California code: remove Councilmember Jim Vreeland

 Pacifica Tribune, 2/21/12. Letter-to the-editor "Remove Vreeland" by Bob Hutchinson

"Editor: Our city is in crisis and Mr.Vreeland has continued to be absent without excuse. Quorums have not been met and important city business is not getting done.
Sorry you're sick but its time to go

Per California Code - Section 36513 I demand Steve Rhodes immediately designate Jim Vreeland's office vacant and a replacement be appointed per protocol.

(a)If a city council member is absent without permission from all regular city council meetings for 60 days consecutively from the last regular meeting he or she attended, his or her office becomes vacant and shall be filled as any other vacancy.

(b)Notwithstanding subdivision (a), if a city council meets monthly or less frequently than monthly and a city council member is absent without permission from all regular city council meetings for 70 days consecutively from the last regular meeting he or she attended, his or her office becomes vacant and shall be filled as any other vacancy."

Posted by Kathy Meeh

City Council Agenda, Monday, February 27, 2012

Attend in person, 2212 Beach Boulevard, 2nd floor.  Or, view on local channel 26, also live feed internet  The meeting begins at 7pm (but usually starts a few minutes late). City Council Agenda, 2/27/12, pages 1-78.

Vreeland decides, the sandwich or the keys?
A.  Closed session (6:15pm)
1)  Conference with legal counsel. Anticipated litigation.

B.  Open session (7:00pm)
Call to order, salute to the flag, commission liaisons, closed session report (if any).
Consent Calendar (pass through), pages 1-2.
1.   Approval of cash disbursements.
2.   Approval of Minutes, city council meeting, February 14, 2012.
3.   Former Pacifica Redevelopment Agency obligation debt payment schedule.
Special Presentation:   POPS- Anna Boothe.

Public Hearings (2)
4.   Resolution to establish the "Palmetto Underground Utilities District", and removal of overhead structures, wires, Facilities; and installation of underground wires and Facilities within said District.
5.   Two (2) appeals against the Assisted Living Center, 96 units, project Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), certified by the Planning Commission (11/21/11). Appeals from  San Pedro Creek Watershed Coalition and Neighbors Concerned about Pacifica and on behalf of Protectors of San Pedro Creek. Item #5 will not be heard at this meeting, and has been continued until the next city council meeting (amended 2/23/12)

6.   Financing City Services Task Force recommendation to declare a city financial emergency,  thereby putting a 5 year, 1/2 cent sales tax on the 6/5/12 ballot. If approved by voters, the sales tax would take effective immediately.
7.    Resolution to file written ballot arguments for the city sales tax.
8.    Issue a  Request for Proposal (RFP) to study the city sales tax.
9.    Adjust upward developer Park and Recreation fees:  1) in lieu of parkland, 2) park facilities.
10.  Wastewater, Teamsters Local 856, 2 year union contract provisions (MOU), pages.73-74.
11.   Miscellaneous Teamsters Local 856, 2 year union contract provisions (MOU), pages 75-76.
12.   City council member meeting attendance requirements, pages 77-78..

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Are conservatives who pound on liberals smart?

This man is not a conservative. 
Some conversations are just better to avoid, but I'm tired of hearing a few ideological dummies pounding on the rest of us.  The following article and related graphs may shed some insight into the reason cosmopolitan, educated, mixed-culture San Francisco Bay Area people are more likely to be more liberal than conservative. Although not considered in this article,  it is observable that most of us are  more moderate in our views, and not extreme regardless of political affiliation. Extreme is the fringe.


      From Time Magazine, 2/26/10, John Cloud.  "Study: Are Liberals Smarter than Conservatives?" The same article was carried by American Scientist.
"The notion that liberals are smarter than conservatives is familiar to anyone who has spent time on a college campus. The College Democrats are said to be ugly, smug and intellectual; the College Republicans, pretty, belligerent and dumb. There's enough truth in both stereotypes that the vast majority of college students opt not to join either club. But are liberals actually smarter? A libertarian (and, as such, nonpartisan) researcher, Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Political Science, has just written a paper that is set to be published in March by the journal Social Psychology Quarterly. The paper investigates not only whether conservatives are dumber than liberals but also why that might be so. 

The short answer: Kanazawa's paper shows that more-intelligent people are more likely to say they are liberal. They are also less likely to say they go to religious services. These aren't entirely new findings; last year, for example, a British team found that kids with higher intelligence scores were more likely to grow into adults who vote for Liberal Democrats, even after the researchers controlled for socioeconomics. What's new in Kanazawa's paper is a provocative theory about why intelligence might correlate with liberalism. He argues that smarter people are more willing to espouse "evolutionarily novel" values — that is, values that did not exist in our ancestral environment, including weird ideas about, say, helping genetically unrelated strangers (liberalism, as Kanazawa defines it), which never would have occurred to us back when we had to hunt to feed our own clan and our only real technology was fire.Read more.

Graph above from Discover magazine.
Related article The American, 10/21/09.

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Global warming changes environments

And, city heat may change-out a councilmember (Jim Vreeland).

Adaptation is what earth creatures do when possible. The environment for the alpine chipmunk got too hot, so he moved uphill to alternative cooler digs.  A city councilmember missing so many city council meetings over a duration of more than one year is also too hot. Time to adapt to private life Mr. Vreeland, at least until the weather is cooler for you.  Don't worry, friends who thank you for "saving the quarry from city tax revenue development" will always think of you fondly.

The climate is 5 degrees too hot, time to move-on.
San Francisco Chronicle/David Perlman Science Editor, environmental section, 2/21/12. "Yosemite's alpine chipmunk seeking cooler habitats."

Backpacking scientists from UC Berkeley have gathered compelling evidence that the warming High Sierra climate is pushing still another animal species to seek cooler habitats amid the higher regions of Yosemite National Park. Their new study, tracking changes in the home range of a single chipmunk species during the past 90 years, follows many other recent reports by field biologists that salamanders, field mice and ground squirrels, among others, also have been driven by rising temperatures to seek new homes at higher elevations in the park.

The new evidence for the effects of global warming comes from a study of the alpine chipmunk (Tamias alpinus) that Emily M. Rubidge, 36, a former UC Berkeley graduate student, carried out during four recent summers. Rubidge camped, hiked and surveyed the chipmunks among the talus slopes of Yosemite's higher mountains, where the animals live and rear their young.

Back in 1914, a famed Berkeley field biologist named Joseph Grinnell led a team of naturalists surveying the lives and habitats of virtually every animal living in Yosemite at that time. His tissue samples, plus 2,000 pages of notes, provided the details that Rubidge and her colleagues used to discover how much higher the chipmunk species has moved its home range. Grinnell's time temperature records in the park also show that Yosemite has warmed by 5 degrees, she found.  Read more.

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Councilmember Vreeland resigns - we'll see

Will Councilmember Vreeland do the honorable thing and resign at the February 27th city council meeting?  More than one year delayed for doing this, we'll see.  

Pacifica Tribune/Jane Northrop, 2/21/12. "Lack of a quorum stymies two city council hearings."

The unexpected absence of Councilmember Jim Vreeland caused the continuation of two items on the City Council agenda last Tuesday. City Council members must excuse themselves from voting on something if they live too close to it, have a business too close to it, or have any perceived conflict about it. In two public hearings brought before City Council last Tuesday, so many council members had a conflict, they had no choice but to continue the matters until the next meeting, Feb. 27.

The appeals challenging the Planning Commission's decision about the assisted living facility on Oddstad were to be heard Tuesday. Council was also expected to hold a public hearing and vote on the utility undergrounding along Palmetto Avenue. Mayor Pete De Jarnatt did not attend the meeting, but his absence was anticipated by city staff. DeJarnatt felt he had to excuse himself from voting on both public hearings that evening. For the Oddstad property, he said he had a perceived conflict because his mother lives adjacent to the property. For the hearing about Palmetto Avenue, he had to excuse himself because he lives too close to the area. Mayor Pro Tem Len Stone had to excuse himself from the Oddstad hearing because he has a business in the adjacent Park Mall. That left Councilmembers Mary Ann Nihart and Sue Digre the only ones able to vote on the matter. In the case of the public hearing about the Palmetto Avenue undergrounding, Nihart had to excuse herself because she lives near Palmetto Avenue.

In the case of the Planning Commission appeals, both sides had extensively planned for their experts and their supporters to attend the hearing. The continuation cost both sides a considerable amount of money and inconvenience. City staff did not anticipate Vreeland's absence and expected he would be able to vote on both of the issues.

Vreeland told the Tribune he has had medical issues over the past year and has recently been admitted to a hospital. He said he is planning on resigning his seat on City Council because of these ongoing medical issues. The city attorney is expected to present council members information about council's rules about attendance and when absences are excused or unexcused at Monday's meeting, said City Manager Steve Rhodes.City Council is expected to discuss the matter of Vreeland's repeated absences at the next council meeting. "This cannot go on," Mayor DeJarnatt said. "I don't know what our options are. He can't keep missing meetings. I'm very concerned about him. I hope he's OK, but the business of the city must go on. This is not permissible. I'm worried about him. It wasn't fair to have those projects not heard."

Posted by Kathy Meeh

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

California's local public pensions $135.7 billion short

The 24 largest independent pension systems in California, including Sacramento County's, are facing a combined $135.7 billion in long-term obligations that they won't have the assets to cover, a new Stanford University report says.

Sacramento County is carrying $4.75 billion in unfunded liabilities, according to the report, with a funded ratio of 57.5 percent. Those numbers are based on an assumed rate of investment return of 5 percent used by the university's Institute for Economic Policy Research.
Generally, experts consider an 80 percent funding ratio for public pensions' financial health, but that figure is greatly affected by what the funds -- or in this case, Stanford researchers -- assume its investments will return. Many pension systems assume they'll earn 7.5 percent or more.

The average funded ratio of all 24 systems outside of CalPERS is 53.6 percent, using the lower Stanford investment return assumption. The research covers Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, Stanislaus and Ventura counties. The cities whose pensions were examined include Fresno, Los Angeles,San Jose, and San Diego. The 24 systems account for more than 99 percent of independent system assets,Stanford says.

Between 1999 and 2010, the local municipalities' pension spending grew at 11.4 percent per year, more than the rate of growth for any other expenditure category, according to the report.

California Common Sense also sponsored the research by Stanford professor Joe Nation and student researcher Evan Storms. In December, Nation published a report that concluded California's three big statewide public pension systems have a combined $500 billion in unfunded liabilities. Public employee unions and CalPERS rejected Nation's conclusions.